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Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 48, Issue 1, pp 3–30 | Cite as

Rethinking Risk, Culture, and Intervention in Collective Sex Environments

  • Katherine FrankEmail author
Target Article

Abstract

This article provides a narrative overview of research on HIV/STI risk and collective sexual behavior based on an inclusive analysis of research on environments where people gather for sexual activity—sex clubs, swingers’ clubs, bathhouses, parks, private sex parties, etc. The aim is to analyze how collective sex has been approached across disciplines to promote conversation across paradigms and suggest new lines of inquiry. Attention to context—such as the location of sex—was a necessary redress to universalizing models of sexual risk-taking behavior, leading to insights rooted in the particularities of each environment and its users. However, the identification of ever more precise risk groups or environmental idiosyncrasies eventually becomes theoretically restrictive, leading to an overestimation of the uniqueness of sexual enclaves, and of the difference between any given enclave and the broader social milieu. Using a theoretical framework of transgression to interpret the interdisciplinary literature, similarities in the spatial and social organization of collective sex environments are identified. Insights generated from this complementary perspective are then applied to understandings of collective sex: first, the example of male–female (MF) “swingers” is used to illustrate the need to establish, rather than assume, the distinctiveness of each non-normative sexual enclave, and to broaden the conceptualization of context; second, questions are raised about the practicality of interventions in collective sex environments. Finally, new lines of intellectual inquiry are suggested to shed light not just on collective sex but on sociosexual issues more generally, such as increasing protective sexual health behavior or negotiating consent in sexual encounters.

Keywords

Group sex Venues Sexual risk-taking Sexually transmitted infections Sexual behavior 

Abbreviations

Venue Type

CSV

Commercial sex venue

GSE

Group sex event

PSE

Public sex environment

PSV

Public sex venue

SOPV

Sex on premises venue

Risk Behavior

CAS

Condomless anal sex

CAI

Condomless anal intercourse

CLAIC

Condomless anal intercourse with casual partners

CVI

Condomless vaginal intercourse

PAI

Protected anal intercourse

PNP

Party and play

sdUAI

Serodiscordant unprotected anal intercourse

sdUAS

Serodiscordant unprotected anal sex

UAI

Unprotected anal sex

UI

Unprotected intercourse (vaginal or anal)

UIAI

Unprotected insertive anal intercourse

URAI

Unprotected receptive anal intercourse

UVI

Unprotected vaginal sex

Other

BDSM

Bondage/domination/sadism/masochism (umbrella term)

CNM

Consensual non-monogamy

CT

Chlamydia trachomatis

GBM

Gay bisexual men

GSS

General Social Survey

HCV

Hepatitis C

HIV

Human immunodeficiency virus

HPV

Human papillomavirus

HRH

High-risk heterosexuals

IDU

Intravenous drug user

MF

Male–female (MF couples might be heterosexual or composed of MSMW and/or WSMW; MF environments are designated as such based on assumed biological sex of participants)

MSM

Men who have sex with men

MSMW

Men who have sex with men and women

NG

Neisseria gonorrhea

PrEP

Pre-exposure prophylaxis

STD

Sexually transmitted disease

STI

Sexually transmitted infections

WSW

Women who have sex with women

WSMW

Women who have sex with men and women

Notes

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank the anonymous reviewers, along with Christian Grov, Edward Fernandes, Keith McNeal, and Paul Vasey for comments on earlier drafts of this paper.

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of Nevada, Las VegasLas VegasUSA

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